Category Archives: Tudor Greceanu

Courage can be cultivated

This is our translation of an excerpt of the second part of Greceanu’s memoirs: his thoughts on courage according to several interviews he gave.

Fearing is human. “Fearless pilot” is a common expression, but people are afraid. The bravest people, as well as the least brave, experience fear at some point in their lives, but what counts is to not give in to fear, not act on panic. Some gave in to fear and were excluded, they were either killed or they fell or withdrew. As far as I’m concerned, during the four and half years of war on both fronts and thousands of flight hours on all types of aircraft of those times, I managed to not give in to fear.

Courage can be educated, in my opinion….. Psychologists may disagree. A special kind of courage, the courage needed when facing the unknown, can be cultivated. Many people wouldn’t walk through a cemetery at night while others wouldn’t enter a deserted church at night… The feeling of a transcendent presence is unsettling, metaphysical realm inspires fear. Our timidity in front of the unknown relegates us to a position where we can no longer use the human means to react to danger. Why do we feel threatened by parapsychological phenomena? Because we don’t know them. Why do we feel threatened by an enemy surprise attack? Because we would not be able to defend ourselves. Why have many resorted to some sort of bigotry while in prison? Because all they had left to defend them was transcendent intervention. Even the fiercest nonbelievers had come to say: “God, please help me!” But why should God help me? Why not try to help myself? When you find yourself behind a 10 cm steel door and behind arm thick bars what else is left than the hope for an outside intervention?

My father had served in the war and since childhood we, the three brothers, were raised to not be afraid of things we did not know…. [still]

During war, when walking through a cemetery at night, although I was armed, I felt an ancestral fear. The shortest road from town to the airfield where we were stationed went through a cemetery. As I was walking along the main cemetery alley I saw a white shadow that seemed to advance at the same pace. I knew there were very well trained teams of what we called “partisans”. I pulled out my gun and kept on walking. At a certain moment I stopped at the intersection of two alleys. Then the white shadow stepped into the alley: it was a dog, it belonged to the family where I was lodged and he accompanied me to the airfield.

“A man with God fear” – what is the origin of this phrase? One either loves God or fears Him. “Fear” because He is more powerful and can annihilate us. Does this mean that our good deeds are triggered by fear and not by instinct or by the divine seed inside us? Is this a “quality”, to be “a man with God fear”?

Since it is impossible to not fear (pathological cases not considered), one can either act on fear or try to control it. Courage can therefore be cultivated. During war, one can either desert the front lines or say to himself that, no matter what happens, the highest price to pay is life. One has to love life less or be ready to give it, irrespective of the price.

Another thing that is normally underestimated is the spirit of sport competition. If I fight another fighter aircraft, either one of us can fall, but I want to prove that I am better. When engaged in such a sport competition, fear vanishes. We, pilots, have some specific psychological traits. When we fought the Americans, eight hundred bombers escorted by five hundred fighter aircraft attacked us, all comparable with our aircraft in terms of quality. We took off with 10 planes. What were our chances? Zero. Şerbănescu[1] used to say, and we all followed his words, that no one should be able to enter Romania as if it were an unguarded territory even if we should all have to die for it. It was a matter of pride; we were proud of our uniforms and of the oath of allegiance to our King and to our commanders and it was a matter of personal dignity and education. This is why I did not leave Romania after August 23[2], despite the fact that I had the fastest aircraft in the world and I could have left anytime. I did not want to flee in front of the enemy, but not because I considered  myself a hero or some Don Quixote…..

I was of no use here, as I would have been of no use elsewhere. Or maybe I would have been more useful elsewhere, who knows…..

[1] Cpt. Av. Alexandru Serbănescu – Romanian fighter ace who died during mission on August 18, 1944.

[2] On August 23, 1944 King Michael removes Mareşal Ion Antonescu from power and Romania joins the Allies.

The First Romanian Pilot on a Twin-Engined Jet Fighter

The following is our translation of a book[1] fragment where Tudor Greceanu describes an important event in his professional life.

By the end of the war, in 1945, the Allied Control Commission in Germany asked for an air show to be organized at Wiener Neustadt. German military aircraft of all types were to participate. Because Romanian aviation operated German aircraft and in order to avoid the participation of German pilots, the Commission asked that each type of aircraft be presented by the best pilots who were familiar with the planes. I was assigned to present Messerschmitt 109 G, the last model I had flown.

It is at Wiener Neustadt that I saw for the first time in my life a Messerschmitt 262 turbojet fighter[2]. The jet’s pilot was a German factory test pilot. In the absence of state’s purchase orders (only ten planes had been produced), the aircraft had been flown by the factory’s test pilots. The test pilot, a German officer named Dickfeld, was under the obligation to fly without German insignia and without the “Deutsches Adler”. I had already worked as a test pilot for Messerschmitt factory, for Land und See and in Romania for IAR[3]. And I knew Dickfeld[4].

The commander of the Inter-Allied Control Commission unit, an American colonel, sent for me in the evening and asked me if I could fly the Messerschmitt 262. With the arrogance of youth (I was 26 and a Captain), I replied: “Certainly, a fighter pilot should be able to fly any type of aircraft”. The Colonel told me to get in contact with Dickfeld and to replace him in the presentation of 262, after having presented the Messerschmitt 109G. I replied that I first needed to take a test flight. I got permission to execute the test flight at 4 a.m.; in the afternoon I was supposed to present it in front of the Commission.

Dickfeld agreed; he was glad to avoid the humiliation of having to fly without his military insignia. He then showed me how various instruments differed and at 4 a.m. I took the test flight with Messerschmitt 262. It reached 1150 km/h, had a flight range of approx. 1000 km enormous fuel consumption, a vertical climb speed of 1000 metres per minute and 2 x 37 mm cannons. The test flight took 7-8 minutes, I did a little acrobatics and then, at noon the same day I took the presentation flight. I was the first Romanian pilot to fly a turbojet fighter.

[1]Pages 124 – 126 of the “Road of the Few: Memoirs of a Fighter Pilot”

[2] Author’s note: Messerschmitt 262, the world’s first operational turbojet aircraft, was built by the Germans and was considered one of the Third Reich’s secret weapons. It was the greatest aerospace engineering achievement of that time. Even military experts of the anti-Nazi coalition expressed the opinion that serial production of Me 262 would have brought Germany immediate air supremacy. Fortunately for the Allies, Hitler would make a fatal error: he was not convinced by the new fighter qualities and on his orders the building of the classical aircraft continued.

[3] Translators’s note: Industria Aeronautică Română – the first Romanian aircraft manufacturer; established in 1925.

[4] Translator’s note: Tudor Greceanu had met Lt. Dickfeld during the German – Romanian joint training in March 1941. At page 68 of his book, Greceanu writes: “I was assigned a young German lieutenant, Dickfeld, who had only 100 flight hours on Messerschmitt 109 and who had not yet taken active part in the war. He was sent as replacement after the losses suffered by his unit in fight. Though young, he was very well trained and “very German”. Extremely polite and kind, especially after having realized that I mastered well his language, Dickfeld spent two hours with me and we discussed the way we were trained, the basis of our training as fighter pilots and the aircraft technical problems.

Breaking Out of Stalingrad Encirclement

The following fragment is our translation of the account given by Tudor Greceanu and published in the collection of studies entitled “Veteranii pe drumul onoarei și jertfei. 1941 – 1945” (The Veterans’ Way: Honour and Sacrifice. 1941 – 1945)[1]. This and other accounts of the same event given by Tudor Greceanu on various occasions and to various publications were all edited and published under the same chapter Breaking Out of Stalingrad Encirclement[2].

Colonel (r) av.[3] Tudor Greceanu, pilot in the 1st Fighter Flotilla remembers: “We departed for war on September 28, 1942, in tight formations, squadrons and patrols on the following route: Galaţi – Nikolaev – Melitopol – Rostov – Tuzov. On October 1 we were landing in Tuzov, approximately 80 km [50 miles] west of Stalingrad. An echelon of our mechanics was waiting on the airfield. They had arrived a few days earlier, carried by a Ju 52. The motor vehicles arrived by rail only next day and they were accompanied by gasoline, tents, food etc. The Romanian Air Corps was set in Morozovsk, at about 200 km [125 miles] west of Stalingrad, a place where the bombardment and reconnaissance groups as well as the medical aviation were located.”

On the field in Tuzov the 8th Fighter Group, with IAR 81 airplanes, and Squadron 113 were located.  We stayed in Tuzov only one week during which we conducted escort missions, ground attacks, reconnaissance flights and free hunt over Stalingrad – Volga, north and south. As soon as the soviets discovered our airfield, we were frequently attacked by the assault and fighter aviation (which did not inflict great losses). As a consequence, the Romanian Air Corps was forced to break up certain units: Group 7 was sent to Karpovka, 30 km [19 miles] west of Stalingrad. We were not the only Romanians on the Karpovka field. Personnel of two anti-aircraft defence batteries were there, too: a battery of 75 mm Vickers guns under the command of Colonel Șerbu and a battery of 37 mm Rheinmetall under the command of Lieutenant Romeo Apostolescu, in direct protection. On the same campaign field there were a German group of Stukas and an observation squadron. The Germans supplied us with subsistence, petrol and ammunition.

We were ordered to build shelters on this airfield, as it was where we would spend the winter; the average daily temperature was already below zero Celsius. The needed materials came from the city of Stalingrad which had been destroyed by artillery and air bombardments. It took us approximately two weeks to build the shelters.

The missions went on in a steady rhythm, as the enemy attacked both the town (Karpovka) and its neighbourhood on a daily basis. Captain av. Alexandru Manoliu was shot down here and the command of Squadron 57 was taken over by Captain av. Alexandru Șerbănescu.

The weather had deteriorated, snow and frost covered everything.  Each of us flew 4 – 5 missions per day, as we were close to the enemy and we flew at low altitude (depending on the cloud ceiling) and most of our missions consisted in ground attacks of the troops and armoured cars, provided that we were able to discover them, as the Russians were very skilful in the art of camouflage. Being dependent on the Germans for subsistence, we felt alone and abandoned at Karpovka. We had just a vague operational dependence link with the Romanian Air Corps and we only communicated by radio, as we were too far away for telephone communication. We were using the western field named Gumrak as our working field. Its concrete runway was completely pierced by bombs and projectiles. I made a forced landing there once, having a hit radiator and I spent a horrible night in the sewer canals of Stalingrad.

Starting with October the weather had gotten worse, the temperature reached – 15 to – 20 Celsius, harsh winds blew 30 to 60 miles an hour and the cloud ceiling was so low that we were forced to fly very close to the earth to be able to intervene, if needed. On November 10, 1942, we received an order coming directly from the 4th German Flotilla, and afterwards retransmitted by the Air Corps, informing us that our mission had changed. We were informed that the Russians had broken through the front line at approximately 6 miles north of Stalingrad and that they had established a “small” bridgehead over Volga River that would “certainly, be quickly destroyed”. There was also another “small” bridgehead at approximately 30 miles south, in the sector of the 5th Romanian Cavalry Division.

Despite low visibility, we executed daily up to 10 sorties per aircraft per pilot, during which we were supplied only with ammunition, as we were able to conduct 2-3 missions without refuelling; with the armament on board, we shot anything that moved behind the enemy line. But nothing moved during the day. At dawn we found that the front line had advanced and grew larger at the two bridgeheads. The armoured vehicles moved only by night, and remained under camouflage, hidden inside buildings, during the day. When the night fell they set off again. All the fighting resources, men and technique, were painted in white  and therefore difficult to spot, especially at our aircraft speed.

Very soon we realized that they were attempting to encircle our troops, the German and Italian troops. The German opposition was certainly strong, but with too few forces, therefore on November 20, 1942, we saw that the encirclement was nearly complete, and Karpovka airfield had also been encircled.

The Air Corps instructed us to continue executing escort missions and ground attacks, and to send our materials, luggage and troops on motor vehicles, keeping only the bare essentials for the operations. But the column came back the same day (November 20); the only road to Tatsinskaya, where the Air Corps had relocated, had been intercepted by the enemy.

We reported that we were in a dramatic situation and after a short while we received the following radiogram: “Subordinate yourselves to the German units on the airfield and receive subsistence from them; there is nothing we can do for you. May God protect you.”

To our surprise, on November 20, in the afternoon, two Savoia-Marchetti aircraft piloted by Commander Udriski and Major Spuză landed on the airfield. As a sign of comradeship, they flew to us to evacuate the injured men (my fellow pilot, Adjutant Ioan Panait, seriously wounded, refused to leave), the pilots left without aircraft and as many technicians and luggage as possible. They took off at dusk, after we thanked them and embraced them; they were convinced that they would not see us again. Lieutenant (r) Vintilă Brătianu who was at the end of his career as a very skilled fighter pilot, an excellent fighter and good Romanian also left.

We were alone; we got in touch with the Stukas unit, subordinated ourselves to Major Barnhelm and cooperated with them in the next days. They assured us that they would give the order to evacuate in due time.

On November 21 and 22 we escorted the Stukas formations and we attacked together the encirclement wall. In the evening of November 22 the Stukas flew a “mission” for which they did not require our presence, and they didn’t come back on Karpovka airfield. We were once again alone, with no food, only with petrol and ammunition.

The Russians’ pressure had intensified to the point that we could hear the duels of the artillery, machine guns and the rattling specific to tank tracks day and night. Because of the frost, we had sentinel shifts of one hour and we doubled them. The anti-aircraft defence batteries were brought on the airfield. We were expecting an attack any time now. On November 23, all flight became impossible due to a terrible blizzard which however did not stop the Soviet tanks. As a consequence, by 4 p.m. when it got dark, the noise of tanks coming from south, where the railroad was located, grew very loud and we were expecting them to discover us during the night. We positioned sentinels and patrols under officers’ commandment on the south side, the batteries of Șerbu and Apostolescu in front of the aircraft, the gun barrels aiming south and we waited for the night. We were to ask by radio for an approval to evacuate the airfield, for four heavy transport aircraft to be sent for our people and, should the weather permit, for the approval to take off with the 30 aircraft that were available (our mechanics were making self-sacrificing efforts to repair them).

We were preparing to send the radiogram when the attack started, around 8 or 9 p.m. A loud sound of tank tracks announced that the Soviets had made up their mind. The watchmen on the railroad ran back to warn us that a lot of T34 tanks had stopped beyond the railroad, surrounded by foot soldiers. They stopped, lighted fires and were preparing to attack towards north. Our loaded motor vehicles served as a camouflage on the south-east side. Around 9 p.m. the first tanks emerged on the railway embankment; their silhouette projected against the background illuminated by the fires behind.

The blizzard had calmed down. Șerbu and Apostolescu opened artillery fire. The tanks retreated leaving behind a damaged one on the railroad. A respite of approximately one hour ensued, during which the Soviets certainly deliberated on how to proceed, not knowing what forces they were confronting.

We had an officers’ council meeting on our airfield. Firstly, we decided to order all the soldiers to bring the aircraft with their tails on the oil barrels, in a position that allowed the on board cannons and guns to shoot horizontally. While this order was executed under Sergeants’ and Non-Commissioned Officers’ supervision, we continued the meeting and decided to have one pilot in each aircraft. Fire should be opened only on order of Captain av. Alexandru Șerbănescu.

A new attack occurred by 10 p.m. This time with a lot of tanks firing on the move. Captain av. Alexandru Șerbănescu gave the order to open fire. Then hell broke loose. For a second time, the Soviets withdrew behind the railway, taken by surprise by the intensity and the type of fire they received. In fact, they were infantry and it was possible that they could not identify an airfield.

After a short break a dreadful attack began: from beneath the railway tens of tanks opened fire over the whole airfield. Aircraft were destroyed or set on fire, tens of dead bodies were torn to pieces, arms and legs were flying in the air. We were striving to carry the wounded to the huts and often, in the light, we realized that we had carried a dead body or a piece of a body. We were covered in blood, smoke and dust, resembling wild bears in our fur-lined overalls. We were desperate. At a certain point, Adjutant av. Tiberiu Vinca addressed these words to Captain av. Alexandru Șerbănescu: “Sir, since we are anyway going to be shot, it would be more natural if we tried to take off.”  Without a hint of hesitation, Șerbănescu agreed. In fact, our unit existed only by virtue of our aircraft. Even if only one of us succeeded, he would tell what happened here and, who knows, maybe he would be able to ask for help for eventual survivors. A decision was taken to identify the aircraft still fit for takeoff; sixteen were found.

Vinca said that he would carry another comrade who would have to lie down in the fuselage; to do this he would take out the radio, the oxygen installation and the armour of the petrol tank. We all agreed. I told Adjutant av. Ioan Panait, who was wounded, that I would take him with me, but he declined my offer and said he would fly as a pilot. I took Adjutant av. Zaverdeanu instead. When Șerbănescu launched the red starting flare to signal takeoff, everything went crazy. Let’s not forget that it was a pitch-dark night and the only light came from the fires, projectiles and all colour tracers. The airfield was completely pierced by bombs. When we started our engines the Soviet tankers finally realized who they were dealing with. They resumed their movement to the airfield, shooting on the move. Upon takeoff, Sub-lieutenants av. Naghirneac and Rozariu collided, both aircraft caught fire and were burning at approximately 50 meters distance one from the other.[4] Adjutant av. Nicolae Iolu who carried in his arms Lieutenant Mechanic Gheorghe Simoneta was fully hit by a bomb. Simoneta died and Iolu, seriously wounded, suffered injuries to his head and stayed there (it was a miracle that he was evacuated to a hospital in Germany; he is alive today and has a silver prosthesis on his skull). When I saw this madness, I told Panait (who had never flown by night) that we should wait and take off at the same time and I would be assuming responsibility for the navigation to Tatsinskaya.

The last image that I remember was that of the Soviet tanks crushing the anti-aircraft defence batteries of Apostolescu and Șerbu who were shooting with all the cannons. I had great difficulty to take off, as I had Zaverdeanu laying down in the fuselage, near me, and I had to pay attention to the red lights of Panait’s aircraft. There were no landmarks, the night was deep dark and frosty and I was at the mercy of a whimsical magnetic compass. Nonetheless, with a watch and with this magnetic compass (that I mastered to perfection) we got to Tatsinskaya. Note that it was generally known and even mentioned in the aircraft instructions that Messerschmitt 109 E7 was not equipped for night flight or radio navigation.

The next day the Romanian Air Corps sent two transport aircraft Junkers 52 to Karpovka. The poor survivors took them by assault before they even completed the landing. They were quickly fully loaded with people and material and took off immediately. In the depths of despair, two soldiers managed to cling to a tail strut; only one of them reached his destination, but he was frozen to the point where they had to use a lever to detach him.

After three days we were ordered to move to Morozovsk where all the fighter units of the Romanian Air Corps were stationed. Our aircraft looked like plane wrecks reminiscent of inglorious times.

After approximately one month, a group of survivors from Karpovka arrived in Tatsinskaya; approximately 200 people under the command of Sub-Lieutenant Drăgan (reserve officer) and of Sergeant Mechanic Marin Bâscă had marched approximately 250 km [160 miles] in the enemy territory, only by night, armed with Manlicher rifles (1893 model), feeding on roots and snow, ghosts in rags that crossed the front line to finally arrive in our territory.

One week later we were ordered to move to Novocherkassk, north of Rostov where we would be alone on the airfield but with our same unusable plane wrecks…

[1] Collection of studies authored by the National Association of War Veterans

[2] Pages 90 – 97 of the book “Road of the Few: Memoirs of a Fighter Pilot”

[3] Aviator

[4] Both pilots were saved

Messerschmitt 109 F – the first flight

On March 6, 1941, without any preparation, Tudor Greceanu and his colleagues (Radu Dumitrescu, Vintilă Brătianu, Ion Mucenica, Gheorghe Lungulescu, Tiberiu Vinca, Ion Panait and Ion Mălăcescu) fly for the first time a Messerschmitt 109 F. The following is our translation into English of the excerpt of Greceanu’s book where the author describes this experience[1].

Accompanied by Nicu Polizu and Beby Greceanu, I got near the plane I was supposed to fly and gave the foreman the signal to cut the engine. He got off and I took his place in the cockpit, while Beby Greceanu got up on one wing and Nicu Polizu on the other. They then started giving me all the instructions I needed to get to know the devices, levers and wheels and of their respective positions for takeoff, flight and landing…. I had the impression that I was doing the craziest thing in my life. I remembered the level of consummate knowledge required by Marin Ghica to allow us to fly.

Beby helped me attach the parachute, gave me the belts and when there was no pretext for delaying the flight, they both got off and I signalled the mechanics to crank. As in an absurd dream, after the fuel injection I coupled the airscrew and the engine started immediately. It was still warm, so there was no excuse for delay; I released the brakes, locked the cockpit and moved rapidly to takeoff point, on the eastern side of the training centre. I faced the aircraft upwind and gradually pushed the throttle to full.

Such was the powerful thrust that at first I had the impression that I hit my head against the back armour.

Then I noticed that the aircraft had a very strong tendency to swerve left; I recalled what Polizu said and pushed heavily to the right; the plane lifted its tail and its swerving left was easier to control so I pushed the rudder less heavily.

I have no idea when it took off. When I reached 10 m, while in level flight, I retracted the landing gear, flaps and radiators and switched on automatic pitch. Speed? 350. Fantastic!…. I pulled up and reached 1000 m in no time.

I then looked at the controls and at the cockpit that were so new to me, and suddenly I had this strange feeling that I already knew them perfectly well and this gave me utter tranquillity. When I reached 2000 m I started to get acquainted with the fighter plane.

3200 revolutions, boast 1.5, pitch to 10. Speed? …. Fantastic…. 550 km/h.

Turns, climbs, dives, rolls at low speed ….. controls testing. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked at the rapid variations of the air speed indicator and of the altimeter.

After a half an hour flight in which I flew over the airfield several times, I reached a state of euphoria that bordered on pathology.

I had the impression that this plane had always been a part of my life, as if it were a living being, a real friend that understood my state of spirit, tried to comfort me, subordinated his strength and his outstanding qualities to my will, accepted me with joy and was willing to cooperate, asking me to understand his needs and bearing with me whenever I acted clumsily.

It suddenly dawned on me – beyond reason – that this was my airplane. We were one body, one unique existence that pulsated in my heart and in his 1500 horsepower engine.

I felt exceedingly well, overflowed with joy and reluctant to starting landing, as that meant a painful separation. Future flights would not raise any question to me. I was fully confident that nothing wrong could happen to me while on this plane. My state of well being and confidence were such as if I had five or six hundred flight hours on a Messerschmitt 109 F…I did not worry at all for the landing.

Landing!?…. I had to land after all! The wheels came out, direction, flaps, stabilizer, radiators, airscrew pitch. The airfield came nearer …. Down!…. support engine, short landing and taxiing to the 56 Squadron hangar.

I unfastened my belt while taxiing, so as soon as I cut the engine I opened the cockpit and got off the airplane.

Three other pilots were waiting for me: “ How was it???….” they asked me.

“It is the best airplane I ever flew!…. Be very careful when taking off, as it tends to swerve left, but other than that it’s the perfect plane.”

And then the others took off…. No accident! The personnel on the runway were enthusiastic and applauded each landing as if they were watching a successful theatrical performance played by some gifted actors on an improvised stage.



[1] Pages 62 – 63 of his “Drumul celor puţini. Amintirile unui aviator” (The Road of the Few. Memoirs of a Fighter Pilot)

Tudor Greceanu – a short biography


The following biography of Tudor Greceanu is based on his book published in 2000 under the title: “Drumul celor puţini. Amintirile unui aviator” (The Road of the Few. Memoirs of a Fighter Pilot).  The edition published by Eminescu Publishing House was coordinated by the author’s sister, Martha Greceanu.

Tudor Greceanu was born in Bucharest, on 13 May 1917; his father, Scarlat, was a railroad engineer and his mother, Alexandrina, a homemaker. Tudor Greceanu was a descendant, through his father, of an old aristocratic family in Moldova. In maternal line he was the great-grandson of Ion Ghica – one of the leaders of the Revolution of 1848 and also a writer, economist, politician and elite diplomat.
In 1919 the family moves to Topliceni, a village in Râmnicu Sărat county, where Tudor attends primary school; starting with 1928 he is enrolled in the Boarding School in Iași.

Fighter pilot training

Between 1937 and 1939 he attends the aviation school; he graduates as Second Lieutenant and on his demand is assigned to the army garrison in Iași. Encouraged by his first flight instructor, Captain Marin Ghica, himself a fighter pilot, he insists on being transferred to the Pilot Training School in Buzău where he would be trained as a fighter pilot. At first, his training squadron uses PZL 11B and 11F.

On November 1, 1940 he is assigned to the 52 Fighter Squadron (Group 5), where he flies the fighter aircraft Heinkel 112.

On March 1, 1941 he is transferred to the newly established 56 Fighter Squadron (Group 7). On March 6, 1941 he flies a Messerschmidt 109 F for the first time, an event that he describes as “a first contact with a good friend that would be with me in good times and bad times throughout the war”[1].

The War

Starting on June 22, 1941, Romania is in war with the USSR.

Here is how Tudor Greceanu concisely describes this period:

“Despite intensive preparations, the Romanian army was, numerically and in terms of technical equipment, at a much lower level than its Eastern neighbour. We had 2000 planes, and this number included medical and passenger aircraft. Nevertheless, we fought with and inflicted heavy losses upon the world’s largest air forces at that time: Russian, American, German and British air forces. Few of our pilots were professionally trained to fly. Most of them were civilians who had acquired flight practice as a sport. These pilots fought at Odessa, broke out of the encirclement in Stalingrad and at Don River bend and were awarded the Iron Cross.”

After August 23, 1944, Tudor Greceanu takes part in the fights on the Western Front. On October 1, 1944, he was promoted to the rank of captain. At the beginning of 1945, together with the Fighter Group 9, led by Constantin (Bâzu) Cantacuzino, he fights in Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

After the War

For his conduct during war, Greceanu receives a “reward”, as he bitterly calls it. On April 1949 he is arrested for having allegedly participated in a “subversive” organization led by Ion Vulcănescu (Romanian mathematician, teaching assistant with Politehnica University in Bucharest). He is first sentenced to 10 years in prison, and after the appeal the sentence is reduced to 8 years in several communist prisons (Aiud, Canal, Cavnic mines).

On December 20, 1952, together with two other political prisoners (Valeriu Șirianu and Gheorghe Spulbatu), Tudor Greceanu attempts to escape from Aiud prison, in order to join the anticommunist armed resistance groups that were active in the mountains. The attempt fails and all three are caught. His two comrades are shot and he is sentenced to death.  The sentence will be after a while commuted to forced labour for life.

After the amnesty for political prisoners in 1964, Tudor Greceanu earned his living doing various jobs in documentation institutes and factories. He retired from the School of Architecture, where he had a research and teaching position with the Materials Resistance Chair.

He is the author of several inventions that were patented (time measuring device, radio emitter, fluid dynamics device for propulsion, hydraulic clamping plate for lathe, cutting and piercing machines).

As a result of relentless demands addressed to Romanian officials, he succeeded to have his legal rights as a war veteran and former political prisoner recognized.

He died in December 1994, after a long suffering.


[1] Tudor Greceanu: The Road of the Few. Memoirs of a Fighter Pilot

Romanian Ace of WWII

Tudor (sometimes written Teodor) Greceanu , one of the Romanian aces of World War II, started to write his memoirs after 1990, only a few years before his death (December 1994). As a consequence of the 15 years he had spent in communist prisons, his health had deteriorated and he managed to write only one chapter entitled “Before the War”, one episode of  the chapter “The War” and another episode of the chapter “The Reward”.

The next several posts will be dedicated to this Romanian hero.